November 19, 2013

Maxwell Maltz, Psycho-Cybernetics (1966)

A self-conscious addition to the postwar surge in self-help discourse, Psycho-Cybernetics was published in 1960. Claiming to have sold over one million copies by the mid-1960s, Maxwell Maltz’s therapeutic program promised to “eradicate ‘emotional scars’ just as a plastic surgeon removes outer scars.” As cybernetics made its way into the laboratories, manufacturing centers, and imaginations of the populace, Maltz’s was a necessary update as Americans became more comfortable with their cyborg future.

The vinyl affect of Psycho-Cybernetics is palpable, as the program is peppered with common sense encomiums, references to Napoleon and Dugald Stewart, and the revelation that your nervous system cannot tell the difference between an actual experience and an imaginary one.

So put your headphones on and give a listen to this heady treatise. Move beyond the merely human, past the “hypnotized” state of the masses. Receive instruction to take charge of your interactions with the representations of self that you have already generated. This is who you are, in charge and on top—the executive warding over the vast machinery of you. This is the imagination at work—you are not a machine but rather the engineer who, by way of one’s study course in psycho-cybernetics, has learned to manipulate the self from a distance, to massage one’s interactions with others, to write the code for complete happiness, sanity, and success.

Let your creative-success mechanism take over. Transcend space and time. Transgress the limitations of death.

March 6, 2013

Are you Interested in Prayer?

prayer machine iWithin the frame of secular modernity, religion has become something in need of measured explanation, something that is either at odds or consistent with the natural state of humanity. Prayer, as a fortifier of belief, has come to mark the religiosity of a shared human experience, for better or for worse. For practitioners and scholars, promoters and critics, prayer often distills something essential about religion. The measurement of prayer corresponds to its drift inward, into the mind and the nervous system, in general.

Cognitive studies of prayer, for example, are rather pervasive these days. Such studies often serve to articulate a boundary between the religious and the secular as either quite stark or else rather porous. In either case, the religious is being measured, constructed, and deployed.

The significance of these studies, I contend, lies in the ways in which they manufacture religion, study after study, regardless of results, turning religion into a measurable and natural matter. Your prayer-life, or lack thereof, is a mark of your individuality in the secular age. Do you pray? Did you used to pray? Do you want to pray? Are you interested in prayer?